Athletes from Kilkenny, the South-East and beyond are gearing up to tackle the Stook 10 mile and 5K challenge this weekend.
Organised by Gowran AC and Young Irelands GAA club, the races will take over Dungarvan Village this Sunday.
Part of the Kilkenny race calendar since 2012, Stook has earned a reputation as a tough but enjoyable mid-Winter road race that offers a friendly and welcoming community atmosphere.
The event, which attracts runners from a wide range of abilities, is very popular with running clubs, bootcamps and triathlon clubs, attracting clubs from across Kilkenny, Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, Laois, Tipperary, Cork, Kildare, Dublin, Wicklow and Meath.
The route for the 10 Mile is challenging, with a substantial hill incline, but what goes up must come down - the aptly named Flying Mile is part of the downhill section of the race. With timing mats at either end everyone gets a personal split for that single mile.
Gary O’Hanlon (Clonliffe Harriers) holds the record at 4.25 for the men with Kilkenny’s Adele Walsh (St Senan’s) and Angela McCann (Clonmel AC) sharing the women’s record at 5.37 for the mile. The race is chip-timed, with all 10 mile finishers receiving the coveted Stook Cowbell in recognition of their achievements.
Despite attracting athletes coming from far and wide, Stook has always been a local race too.
Dungarvan and Gowran parishes are very proud of their race and the community effort that goes into the day is second to none. One of the highlights of the race for runners is the post race refreshments provided by the parish on the day. Nobody leaves the village of Dungarvan hungry, thirsty or empty-handed!
In the build-up to this year’s Stook, Gowran AC have been involving the local community even more.
A very successful “Couch to 5k” programme started in September. Held on Thursday evenings, the programme catered for enthusiasts of all abilities and fitness levels.
This event was organised by a number of Gowran AC Senior athletes who provided their own experience and expertise to encourage and motivate.
Forty people started the programme on that first night, despite the wind and rain. This determined group continued to work on throughout the weeks - even a flurry of snow couldn’t stop them!
The group, who are ready to take on the 5k Challenge on Sunday, are sure to become familiar faces at the club’s training sessions after this weekend.
Many of the local primary and secondary school children are also part of the Gowran AC family. The club attract members from the Gowran, Paulstown, Clara, Goresbridge, Borris and St Mullins areas, to name just a few.
Earlier this year Gowran AC held training sessions in Gowran and Borris National schools during the Active School Week. To follow up on this success, a ‘5k-Fit’ active programme was launched in Gowran NS, which culminates with children taking part in the Stook dash with their friends and family.
Teachers and trainers created and implemented a fun range of activities to cater for all interest and fitness levels. The Watershed Sports Complex lent their support to the cause, giving a November discount to Gowran NS, encouraging the children to include swimming as part of their weekly active lifestyle.
The programmes are part of the club’s work to encourage more children to partake in exercise. Building positive habits for life can be a shared effort between schools and sporting organisations. The club will continue to collaborate with the local schools in the future.
In another step to promoting a healthy lifestyle, a large contingent of Gowran AC athletes of all ages completed the Kilkenny Parkrun recently.
The Parkrun, a fantastic and well-organised event, is a weekly free event held in Kilkenny Castle Park. Race director Howard Triggs, a Stook 10 Mile finisher, brought his own Stook Cowbell to spread the word of Stook to the Parkrun audience. Gowran AC Academy runners, aged 5 and 6 years, also rang Cowbells to cheer on the runners during the 5K.
While there are many runners who will be training hard for that Stook personal best, for others this will be the first time to complete a 5k. No matter what the outcome, all effort is a fantastic achievement.
The Stook 10 Mile and 5k Challenge will be a fantastic opportunity to get out and get active with family and friends. Further information and registration details are available from www.stook10.ie or race director Simon O’Dwyer, tel 086-2863640.